More than ever before, rail operators, shippers and travelers all count on trains arriving on time and at the scheduled destination. Delayed shipments and travelers have a negative impact on reputation, profitability and productivity.
Globally, switch failures are consistently the primary cause of train delays. Consistent delays contribute to increased fuel costs, crew expenses, and maintenance & repair costs. One of the largest US railroads has reported that issues with railway signaling switches and switch machines cost them millions of dollars annually.
Effective railway switch monitoring can alleviate failures by allowing rail operators time to execute repairs and resolve issues. Railroads can foresee when a particular switch is failing enabling them to respond proactively and plan work of maintenance forces.
The goal of any remote switch monitoring solution is to detect switch failures before they will cause a train delay, thereby giving maintenance personnel the opportunity to schedule repairs or adjustments instead of reacting to an emergency. The Switch Sentinel provides clear indication of the potential issue so that maintenance personnel have a better idea where to look before arriving on site to fix the problem. It also permits better advance coordination between different maintenance groups.
The on-site data acquisition unit (DAU) records and stores the information locally. In the present configuration, each DAU can monitor up to two switch machines. For larger locations, higher-capacity modular units will be available. In addition to the inputs for motor current, the DAU also provides auxiliary inputs to measure other information like end position detection, temperature, voltage, intrusion control, etc. Current and historical data is stored locally, but all data presentation, analysis and reporting, however, is performed by the server software.
As with any server-based system for which multiple users will need different levels of access, the permission-based back office server access makes administration of different user groups simple and straightforward. A configuration tool allows administrators to add new switches, to assign territories, locations, switch numbers, etc. The thresholds at which the system generates an alert or alarm can be easily configured by the end customer.
Based on secure SQL technology, the server can store a virtually unlimited number of switches and operations. Alert/alarm notification is configurable and can be set up as email, SMS, etc. Data presentation is flexible as well, with the ability to sort data by any combination of inputs, from switch machine type to territory to temperature, etc. A map-based interface is included to permit the operator to zoom in to and click on any monitored switch and view its throw data and history directly. The graphical representation of motor current over time against baseline values, and display of trending curves over time are only two of the many ways to view events and histories.